On the morning of 4 October 1993, Koç University started its educational life. On that day, following the first lesson he delivered to the students, Vehbi Koç had told a few close people that this project had been “the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, the most correct investment” Indeed, during the three years after its opening, the İstinye Campus would give Vehbi Koç the conviction that he had reached his goal in education.
The First Lesson
Date: 4 October 1993
Place: Koç University İstinye Campus
“Today, in the West, the university and the business world work in nested fashion. Especially in the United States, managers from business and industry frequently hold lessons and conferences in universities, and participate in debates. I hope that this habit takes hold in our country and in our universities as well. My speaking here today and your first lesson is symbolic. As the founder of this university, I would like to convey some issues I have found useful from the “University of Life,” where I have been studying for the past 70 years. People learn something every day, yet the education and the learning of people who are open to novelty takes a lifetime and never ends.
First, I would like to tell you how the idea of opening a university came about. I met many businesspeople during my travels to the West. I saw that large, institutionalized firms employed many well-educated, talented young people, who were fluent in languages. This had a major role in the progress of developed countries and the consolidation of their economies. Today the power that makes America, that makes Japan is largely economic. This in turn is made possible with talented people who run these institutions. In similar fashion, I believe that it is important to raise well-educated young people who are fluent in languages so that Turkey can also develop.
We spent considerable effort to establish a good university in Turkey. We have completed the planning, however because of formalities, it has not been possible to set up a university in the desired location and with the desired admission conditions. The Executive Committee of the Vehbi Koç Foundation decided to establish the university in this temporary location to prevent loss of time, to ensure that young people receive education and that faculty can be hired as soon as possible. Hence now, here, Koç University started education…
Here, we aim to take above average students and to bring them up to world class businesspeople. To this end, the Vehbi Koç Foundation will contribute 5 million dollars to the University every year. The aim of Koç University is to make it possible to provide good training and education to extraordinary young people. The future of our country will be secured because there are enough of them and because they will reach the leadership positions they deserve… the more qualified people we can train, the more we will be serving the country.”
Vehbi Koç, 4 October 1993
Following this introduction, the 92-year-old Anatolian born in 1901, the author of countless successful enterprises over seven decades shared with the students his principles for success, which he learned in the university of life.
“Dear Students, I have some advice which I believe will be useful in your school life as well as in your future business life…
Vehbi Koç finally stated, “the more qualified people we can train, the more we will be serving the country,” and wished students success before he completed his lesson. He received an enthusiastic round of applause.
And on 25 February 1996, news from Antalya saddened the Koç community as well as the entire country: Vehbi Koç had passed away…
It is a good thing we built the İstinye Campus. If the inauguration of the campus had not taken place, we would be even more upset to lose Vehbi Bey. It is a good thing we opened the university and Vehbi Bey got to give the first lesson... If not, this would remain as a major regret inside all of us.